Latinas part of “new generation” of abortion rights activists

This Tuesday several reproductive rights organizations came together in Washington D.C. for the launch of All Above All, a new campaign aimed at ensuring low-income women can get safe, affordable abortion care, including working to restore public insurance coverage.

All Above All stands for women who are struggling to get by, to ensure that they too can make their own reproductive health decisions without political interference,” says Kierra Johnson, executive director of Choice USA. Johnson says this campaign is not only about abortion access, but about improving health care in general. “We need to open up all the different options to our communities,” she says.

“We’re targeting the new American electorate. We wanted to stop playing defense and be proactive,” says Jessica González-Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute of Reproductive Health, who says the campaign is seeking to support young people and women of color in particular.

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González-Rojas says that Latinas already have a hard time accessing adequate health care without the added obstacles stemming from recent clinic closures throughout the country. She says that many Hispanic women also have language barriers and immigrant women face additional challenges because of their legal status. Latinas are more likely to experience unintended pregnancies and have the highest rates of teen pregnancy, and are the group at most risk of being uninsured.

In addition to creating awareness and visibility, one of the main objectives of the campaign is working to repeal the Hyde Amendment, which was passed in 1977 to restrict Medicaid coverage of abortion.

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The original amendment only allowed federal funding of abortion in the cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment. The restrictions have been modified several times throughout the years, and as it currently stands, only allows federal funding for abortion in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment, which is now restricted to “a physical disorder, physical injury or physical illness, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.” The restrictions will also continue under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The Hyde Amendment has been used as a tool by politicians to prevent women from making decisions about their health care,” says González-Rojas.

Jessica Arons, president of Reproductive HealthTechnologies Project, believes that not challenging the Hyde Amendment has been a disservice to the reproductive rights movement. She says the idea for the All Above All campaign began a few years ago when several reproductive rights organizations came together to reassess the debate.

The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, Choice USA, Black Women’s Health Imperative, The Center for Reproductive Rights, and the National Council of Jewish Women are just a few of the organizations that are taking part in the campaign.

Johnson says that in her work at Choice USA, she sees a lot of diverse college students eager to participate in the abortion debate. “They are excited to champion abortion coverage for low-income women,” she says. “Young people have been looking for a platform.”

The campaign, which uses bright colors and encourages supporters to post “selfies” on their Facebook page, is geared toward a young demographic. “We are engaging a new generation of activists,” says Arons.

These are the organizations that are lifting up the voices of a diverse constituency,” says González-Rojas. “This is about creating excitement. We’re really thrilled about this campaign taking off.”

Erika Sanchez NBC Latino avatar

Erika L. Sánchez is a poet and writer living in Chicago. She is currently the sex and love advice columnist for Cosmopolitan for Latinas and a contributor for NBCLatino, The Huffington Post and other publications. She is a recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship and the 2013 “Discovery”/Boston Review poetry prize. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, or www.erikalsanchez.com

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